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2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

ROCKCRAWLER.com
FJ Cruisin’

By Kevin Curry

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This last November, ROCKCRAWLER.com was given the opportunity to fly out to Ojai, CA to check out the up-and-coming Toyota FJ Cruiser. To be released in early 2006 as a 2007 model, this rig started out as a concept which made its debut at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in 2003. Due to an overwhelmingly positive response, Toyota announced the launch of the FJ Cruiser production model during the 2005 Chicago Auto Show.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
Toyota FJ Cruiser

You have likely noticed that retro-styling has been in with auto manufacturers these days. It started most notably with the Chrysler PT Cruiser and can now be seen on the Chevy SSR, as well. Designs were well ahead of their time in the 50’s and the design of the Toyota Land Cruiser was no exception.

The first Land Cruiser was built in 1953 but they weren’t mass-produced until 1956. Although they resembled the Jeep, they were nowhere near the same. Beginning with the FJ-25 they were outfitted with a 4-speed tranny and a 6-cylinder motor. Many of the models through the years shared similar grill styles, which is the trademark of the FJ Land Cruiser. That retro-style was used in the design of the FJ Cruiser, as well, which will make it stand out among other vehicles in its class – along with its legendary off-road prowess.

2007 Toyota FJ CruiserWhat else is new? Well, of course, although the styling reaches back to the 1950’s, the five-passenger FJ Cruiser melds this nicely with modern luxuries and power. Included in the standard array are ABS brakes (included with the V-Star package), folding rear seats, AM/FM with CD and six speakers, and all of the necessary gauges with color-keyed bezels, which gives it the modern, but retro look.

Options include power mirrors, CD-Changer, cruise control, information center and many others - enough to make one want to use this rig on a daily basis. Power is generated with a 4.0-liter DOHC V6 engine with VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence), generating 239 horsepower and 278 lb-ft. of torque, then put to the road through a five-speed automatic transmission in all 4x2 models with an available six-speed stick for the 4x4. We also learned from a credible source that Toyota may be releasing a rag-top version.

The Ojai Valley was a beautiful and appropriate setting for Toyota’s event. Not until that day was the public actually able to put their hands on, sit in, kick the tires and actually get a feel for the vehicle – without driving it. Hundreds of invitations were sent and the turn-out appeared to be great. Many were current Land Cruiser owners and those who expressed interest in the FJ Cruiser either through Toyota’s WEB site or through their dealer. Also in attendance were many other special folks who either keep the old Land Cruisers alive like Marv Specter of Specter Off-road (www.sor.com) who, himself, owns 50 or more classic and current Land Cruisers , and Toyota Chief Engineer Akio Nishimura who’s responsible for bringing FJ Cruiser to life. Also participating in the event were “Iron Man” Ivan Stewart, the king of Off-road racing and Off-road trainer Bill Burke of 4-Wheeling America LLC (www.bb4wa.com) who was actually given the unique opportunity to test the FJ Cruiser’s capabilities for three days on the Rubicon Trail.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
Toyota FJ Cruiser

What were our impressions of the FJ Cruiser? Our opinion is that Toyota has come a long way with this product to break back into the off-road market and compete with Jeep’s “Trail Rated 4x4” line-up. Unlike many of the 4-wheel drive SUV’s on the market, the FJ Cruiser was built as a rear-wheel drive vehicle first then given a real transfer case to distribute the power to the four corners. To protect the drive-line, beefy skid armor was added to assist the chassis where it lacked break-over clearance. With the common straight axle in the rear with coil-over for long travel, comfortable driving is supplied with what appears to be a single-A wishbone independent front suspension, which was no surprise given the popularity of IFS over the last several years. Toyota promises that won’t hold it back on the trails, however, we were not given the chance to test it out ourselves.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
Toyota FJ Cruiser

“Starting with a beefy ladder frame, the FJ shares its chassis with the short wheelbase of the Land Cruiser Prado. Putting power to the ground, the FJ utilizes 32-inch tires and an available locking rear differential. The F J also makes use of its 4-wheel traction control system, designed to stop spinning wheels, and force the differentials into sending power everywhere else.”

We like the re-use of the 50’s-style grill with the offset headlights and the Toyota badging. Unfortunately, the rest of the vehicle reminds us of the AMC Pacer. We can get over that, though. The rear fold-down seats seemed to be roomy with rear suicide doors allowing entrance . The single rear-door allows access to the expansive cargo hold but can only be opened using the key.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
Toyota FJ Cruiser

Something which caught our eye was the ingenious way to make changing the oil filter a lot less of a mess. Instead of having to crawl underneath to access the filter, designers of the FJ Cruiser cleverly placed the filter at the front of the engine, facing downward for drainage but also added a lip around the connection and a hose for additional drainage once the filter is removed. It appeared that Toyota listened to the demands of its public when designing this rig, which was refreshing. We can’t wait to see them on the trails.

We’re excited over the re-introduction of Toyota into the off-road market with the FJ Cruiser and we think Toyota execs will be excited over the numbers after it hits the market.

For more information about the Toyota FJ Cruiser, go to www.Toyota.com/FJCruiser.

2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Kevin is a staff-writer for Rockcrawler.com. Kevin likes the old FJ's just fine, but frankly, had he known Ivan Stewart was going to be in Ojai, he would have gone if the FJ was nothing more than a cave drawing. All hail the King!

Contact Kevin at texas4x4@rockcrawler.com

 

 

 

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